Monday, January 24, 2011

The Privileged Pain of Writing

Over on that delightful distraction, Facebook, one of my friends, Melinda Henneberger, expressed pseudo-annoyance with people who claim they just luuuuuuv to write. She later expressed the sentiments about writing I share: I prefer having written to the actual writing. One of  comments described writing as a "privileged pain."

Where do you stand? Privilege, pain, or both? Do you just luuuv writing so much that you would write even if you knew that you'd never get published, that no one was ever going to read your work? Is the drive to write so strong that you cannot bear the thought of going for more than a day or two away from the keyboard or pen and pad? If you were stuck on a desert island, would you write anything more than "Help!" in the sand?

Do you write in hopes of fame? fortune? an excuse to drink? a reason to flout the rules, cheat, act all artistic? Do you write because you want people to say, "S/he's a writer." Do you write with visions of your serious-looking mug on the back of a book, of people recognizing you as you stroll through malls, run through airports, search for seats at movie theaters? What's your excuse for the time you spend alone instead of in a soup kitchen, for spending more time with imaginary people than with your own family?

Samuel Johnson weighed in on the question this way: "No man but a blockhead, ever wrote, except for money." What say you?


  1. Great post! And I agree - writing is hard, but in having written (sometimes just committing to the act in itself) there comes a great reward ... and a sense of accomplishment. I've always loved the quote by the great biographer David McCullough (I think it's from his book about John Adams)... He said something like, "Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard." The older I get and the more I write, the more I've discovered the inherent truth in that sentiment.

  2. Oh no! Thinking clearly is hard, too? I'm doomed. :)

    To have written like McCullough, though, is worth it.

    Sorta kinda maybe related, just read an interview with Fran Liebowitz, who said that when she's not writing, she feels "felonious." I love that. Gets at that nagging feeling when you're not at the keyboard/desk.

  3. I write to get A's to please my parents.

  4. A fine goal, Dan. I have a son who shares your name. We are very pleased.